Patrick Stokes recently blogged about his experience of being forced to reflect on his place in philosophy’s gender-structure. The nicest people can suffer from a kind of blindness–like the dog in this parable.
Pat, as befits a Kierkegaard scholar, focuses on the condition of the individual consciousness, and this is not to be neglected. Are we the baddies? is always a question worth asking. My worry is that even after we’ve checked our privileges and raised our consciousnesses, we’ll still have the nice guy problem. That is, everyone involved in making the key hiring and promotion decisions is a nice guy—and let us assume, has noticed his fur and learned the meaning of ‘cold’, and would never dream of illustrating a book by a man about a man’s philosophy with a picture of a naked woman—and yet the gender patterns persist.
I don’t know, and I’m not able to find out, because I’m a philosopher, and this is a question for social science. Pat records, accurately, the bafflement of male (and not only male) philosophers, faced with the stubbornness of the gender imbalances in philosophy. Suppose these imbalances are structural? There can be institutional racism, for example, in institutions with no racists. It could be that the sexism of philosophy is institutional in just the same way. In that case, philosophy will have to take advice from other disciplines, perhaps from politics, or anthropology, or behavioural economics. (Michael Barany suggests something like this here.) Philosophers have difficulty imagining that there might be intellectual tasks ourside the STEM subjects that philosophy does not equip a person for. Understanding and changing the gender imbalance in its own ranks is one such task.